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Cafe Vocar, Wayward Kitchen, TOCHI

Photos by Dan Bishop

February 2014

Wayward Kitchen

Chef and restaurateur Michael Vocarís namesake restaurant is a dream nine years in the making. He purchased the Riverwest building and remodeled it slowly, opening Cafe Vocar late last year. "I come from a cooking family," Vocar says. "My mom, who was a chef, is a huge influence on me, but she comes from a long line of culinary people. The food I make is the food my mom used to make growing up."

He serves dishes from central and eastern Europe, with a modern spin. The most popular dish on the menu is the Hungarian goulash, made with local beef. Itís spicy but not overly spicy. "Itís just flying off of the plates," Vocar says.

Another must-try dish is Reginaís lasagna. Regina, a chef who lives in the neighborhood, brought her lasagna in when Vocar interviewed her. "Itís just simply the best lasagna Iíve ever tasted," Vocar says, adding that he hired her on the spot. The lasagna is made with her sauce, which she simmers for 24 hours.

The crepes filled with wild mushrooms and cheese are also noteworthy, as is the creme brulee, which includes Nutella on the bottom.

The restaurant is open Friday through Sunday, but by March Vocar expects to be open Wednesday through Sunday. He has plans for free cooking lessons Mondays and Tuesdays. "I designed the restaurant so that we could offer cooking classes," he says. 932 E. Wright St., (414) 264-1465,

Wayward Kitchen

Wayward Kitchen

When husband and wife Tyler and Megan Mason decided to open a restaurant, they settled on the name Wayward Kitchen because of the actual dictionary meaning of the word "wayward." "It means unruly, unpredictable, ungovernable," Megan Mason says. "When Tyler talked about change ó because of seasonality or responding to trends on the menu ó we didnít want to have to justify it. We decided that if we wanted to bring in a new flavor, our guests would understand from the get-go."

And unpredictably delightful results are what you can expect at this new Walkerís Point eatery. Tyler Mason, who previously helmed the kitchen at the Milwaukee Ale House, makes his own kimchee, which goes perfectly with chorizo rice or braised spare ribs.

The inventiveness doesnít stop at entrees. One of the best things on the menu is arancini. Traditionally, arancini are savory rice balls, coated with bread crumbs and filled with bits of meat. Mason put his on the dessert menu, making a coconut rice pudding filled with Nutella, then finishing it with cinnamon sugar and homemade orange marmalade.

The drinks have a Wisconsin focus; youíll find things like a cranberry margarita or a gin fizz made with Rehorst gin and homemade hibiscus tea. The restaurant recently began serving lunch, and a late Sunday brunch likely will be added soon. 1407 S. 1st St., (414) 763-1191,



Aficionados of the Anaba Tea Room were sad to learn it was closing at the end of last year. But chef Gregg DesRosier is opening a new restaurant in the same Shorewood location beneath the Garden Room. TOCHI, a ramen noodle restaurant, will highlight his adventurous side. If you ever went to Anaba for dinner, youíve had a sample of the amazing Asian-fusion cuisine DesRosier specializes in. DesRosier, who has visited tea farms and experienced cuisine throughout China, and his team spent a year developing the concept of TOCHI.

"The Anaba was coming up on 10 years, and if youíre going to make a change, thatís the time youíre going to reinvent yourself," DesRosier says.

TOCHI, he says, is all about having fun with Japanese ramen noodles. Thereís a classical ramen dish, a spicy miso ramen with a pork-based broth and a miso deviled egg dropped in it, a brothless ramen made with grass-fed Wisconsin beef, a shoyu broth on the bottom, then shitakes, slow-poached egg and smoked bone marrow butter on top.

Thereís even a ramen thatís similar to a Japanese carbonara. A Wisconsin ramen is made with brats, caramelized pickle relishes and dehydrated sauerkraut with a mizo mustard broth.

Besides ramen, there are also a few Chinese rice porridges or congees as entrees. DesRosier is working on a mason-jar salad, and for appetizers heís got edamame hummus, Japanese cucumbers, blistered shoshito peppers and both vegetarian and pork steamed buns.

TOCHI, like Anaba, will have an extensive selection of teas, but the wine, beer and sake offerings have expanded, as has the cocktail list. TOCHI serves lunch and dinner. "Thereís a huge cult following for ramen so we expect weíll be a destination restaurant just like Anaba was," DesRosier says. 2107 E. Capitol Drive, (414) 963-9510,


This story ran in the February 2014 issue of: